Musical Fidelity M1 HPA - A Personal Review

El Hefe

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2008
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Confined space in general has always been considered as a hazardous area, well
at least in the oil and gas industry. There are also people who cannot stand
being in a small area or room for a long time due to claustrophobic.

hifi world,the terms of openness, airy, liveliness etc are widely use to
describe how the music flow right from the source to the amp and to the speakers
and provide the listener with all these experiences that can be described in the
terms above.

Big speakers are usually related to big rooms in order for
them to sing. Heck, I got a bashing for buying D18s in putting them in a small
room. But hey, me ears are telling me that those speakers are filling up my room
with music nicely.

Now, if we often describe the experience we feel with
our system to be fulfilling in a given room size, how then there is a big
following of so called head-fi??? Whom majority of them have confined their
listening pleasure to a set of cans around their ears? Are they missing
something that hifi and audiophiles quest for? Cost is no longer a strong reason
for people to say that head-fi is cheaper than hi-fi hobby. I have listened to a
pair of cans that cost GBP4000, nearly double the price of my D18s. And I saw one
guy walk away with purchasing it a few months back. !!!!

Enough of
rambling. This is a story of how my recently conversion into the dark side of LP was
even further darkened by the introduction of Musical Fidelity M1 HPA.
Coincidently HPA stands for Head Phone Amp. The idea of using headphones for
listening pleasure came to me about 15 years ago but I was not introduced to it
properly. I didnt enjoy the confined listening area around my ears. Never got
into it again until I got my second child in 2010. Had to start thinking of
option to enjoy music without waking up the kid.

Long story short, I went
from Musical Fidelity X-Can V2 to X-Can V3 and to M1 HPA within less than 2
years period. And this HPA have further strengthen my believe towards the
wonderful dark side of LP.

I have gone through most of the LPs I have now
on both D18s speakers driven by MF M6i amp and also a pair of Alessandro Grado
MS Pro cans driven by M1 HPA. Both methods gave me a different perspective of
the LPs I play.

Here I give you a few examples.

1. Brand new Diana
Krall Quiet Nights - Via the D18s, her vocals were very transparent, fulfilling
with a slight touch of low end especially on the Ipanema track. The details of
each instrument was defined and well balanced. Of course the LP being brand new,
didnt hear any crack and pops. Switch to the MS Pro cans, I didnt loose any of
these characteristics. But wait, I gained something else, a sense of space. I
feel like I was in the studio where Diana Krall was recording the album.
Listening through the cans gave me this enclosed and more control over the
reproduction of the album. I though my mind was playing tricks on me. I did the
same comparision with Andrea Bocelli's album. It confirms further that confined
is not always hazardous

2. Now,
vocal-based artists and albums are sometimes easier to comment on their good
recording. But how about some heavy metal and rock stuff. Out went Diana and
came in Guns & Roses. Still one of my beloved LPs thus fars, Spaghetti
Indicent. Playing Since I dont Have You on D18s just gives me the rocking
sensation. The growling guitar of Slash and and the subtle drumming on this
track can be considered to me as one of the fine moments of Guns N Roses in
their career.The atmospehere it creates in my room was very lively and full of
energy. And this was at my normal moderate listening level of 10 o clock on the

Switch to HPA, hhhhhmmmmmm....bass was heavier and defined, Axl's
vocal strength was further refined with such balance with the guitar. Its even
easier to hear the separation between vocals and instruments used on this track.
Again, it gave me this feeling of me being in the recording studio with

3. Last example, went in Black Dog Bone. This was an LP from the
70s that is worth every cent (out of GBP 8 I paid for it hehehe). I really love
the quality (and the simplicity of the recording) from that era. It was clear
that the band had fun recording the album. I can really feel that their songs
blaring through my D18s have managed to give me this sensation of being in the
70s although I was only born in late 70s.

Switch to HPA and it became a
bit too harsh mainly because the cracks and pops were much more evident and the
ones that I could tolerate via the D18s, it were too loud for cans.

for TT lovers, try out headphones for a more defined experiences with LPs.
However, ensure that you are exposed to head-fi properly. Dont make the same
mistake I made 15 years ago. Get a dedicated headphone amp and a good
pair of cans.

Finally, a little bit on M1 HPA.

Its a pure class A
headphone amp with low impedance to drive cans with low distortion. I have
tested this HPA with 5 different headphones:

1. Alessandro Grado MS

2. Bose Over the Ear

3. Bose QC 15

4. Monster Dr. Dre
Beat Studio

5. Sennheiaser PX100

All of them were driven nicely
with no sound of stress nor distortion. For moderate listening, 9 o' clock on
the knob is sufficient.


comes in a similar black ash metal shoe box casing like MF's other M1 kit.
Sturdily and stylishly builts. Very sleek look. The PSU is built in and power
via a good 3 pin plug. I however changed the power cable to QED Conduit just
because I had a spare


It comes with the

1. 1 x Line input

2. 1 x USB input (like MF other M1
kit, limited to 48 KhZ)

3. 1 x pre out

4. 1 x line out

5. 2
x headphone sockets

There you go. Another M1 kit that made it nicely onto
my rack.


New member
Jan 11, 2010
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Hello El Hefe

Thanks for another great post

I too have the M1 HPA (amongst other MF kit). I've had it for around 8 months and am using Denon AH-D2000 and AKG K702 head phones, both with excellent results. I probably listen about 50/50 heaphones/speakers and agree that in the case of vinyl, headphones certainly can bring out the best and worst depending on condition of the record.

I have a (slightly off-topic) question regarding the HPA which I think you can answer. I recall you mentioning in another post (which I can no loinger find) that you were connecting up an external soundcard to the Pre-Outs on the HPA for recording Vinyl. Is that correct?

I'm planning on buying an audio interface to record some of my records, but don't want to disconnet anything (e.g. Tape loop on amplifier that goes to the HPA) if I can help it.

Using the pre-outs would be a perfect solution, if that works (Turntable> Phono Pre-Amp>Amp>HPA>Audio Interface>PC). Look forward to your reply - or anyones, for that matter.

Cheers. Ian

El Hefe

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2008
Visit site

Sorry for the late reply. Didnt notice anyone would reply to this review.

Well, if you need to transfer the vinyl into a digital format ie MP3 or WAV, you can either use the good old way using 3.5 mm jack x stereo RCA cable. Connect the RCA to pre ou of HPA and the 3.5 jack into the mic input of your PC. A bit of hassle as you need to control both the volum on HPA and input volume on the mic.

But better and easier way, I use the NAD PP2 phono/aux in stage which outputs the signal from the HPA pre out to the PC using USB cable. Then do the editing on the PC.

Hope this helps eventhough its 2 weeks too late of a reply.


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